January 30, 2016

The American oligarchy began well before Citizens United

More support for our thesis that the First American Republic collapsed in the 1980s and that we have been living under a post-constituional oligarchic adhocracy since then.

Robert Reich, Truthdig - How badly is political power concentrated in America among the very wealthy? A study published in the fall of 2014 by two of America’s most respected political scientists, Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page, suggests it’s extremely concentrated.

Gilens and Page undertook a detailed analysis of 1,799 policy issues, seeking to determine the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups and average citizens. Their conclusion was dramatic: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, Gilens and Page found that lawmakers respond almost exclusively to the moneyed interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

I find it particularly sobering that Gilens and Page’s data came from the period 1981 to 2002. That was before the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United opinion, which opened the floodgates to big money in politics, and before the explosion of Super Pacs and secretive “dark money” whose sources do not have to be disclosed by campaigns. It stands to reason that if average Americans had a “near-zero” impact on public policy then, the influence of average Americans is now zero.


Kevin Carson said...

The oligarchy only began in the 1980s if that 9 is an upside-down 6.

Anonymous said...

The peak of the American standard of living was 1974. It's been all downhill since then, with some periods of decline more intense than others.

KZeese said...

The American oligarchy began with the US Constitution being drafted by the wealthiest white men in the nation who owned more slaves than anyone else. even people like John Adams were known for defending plantations seeking their so-called escaped slaves.

They drafted a constitution that protected their property rights, i.e. their right to own slaves, and minimized human rights. Under this constitution there would be no land reform, even though land grants from a deposed monarch were the source of plantations. The Bill of Rights had to be added because without it there were no protections for basic rights.

The Constitution allowed only 6% of the population to vote, enshrined slavery in the document, did not allow any women or men who did not own property to vote. The Constitution put in place multiple aspects of government that were anti-democratic, e.g. senators were appointed by states, justices were appointed and received a lifetime appointment and the Electoral College got between the people and voting for president.

The US Constitution was written of, by and for the oligarchs.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln addressed democracy
not perishing globally at Gettysburg.
The US is the world's lead democratic tradition, however flawed. Bernie remembers the second reconstruction before Buckley v. Valeo stopped it. Hence a "revolution" to restore elementary voter enfranchisement, permitting the US to move forward from where it went off the tracks in 1976. If Lincoln himself isn't pursuasive, then see Sumner's Eulogy on Lincoln.

Kevin Carson said...

Lincoln was a capitalist politician. When he entered politics as a Whig, he said his "beau ideal of a statesman" was Henry Clay, and he supported Clays agenda -- also the agenda of the industrialists -- of "internal improvements," a National Bank and a high tariff.